The evidence is clear that young children benefit from opportunities to read text that emphasizes letter-sound relationships they have learned to date.11 This reinforces the value of their hard work and of using decoding to read words. Children’s reading opportunities should not be restricted to decodable texts, or those with only letter sounds they have been taught, but such texts should be a regular part of the reading diet. TextProject.org is a great resource for texts, and information about texts, that support beginning readers to learn to decode, without being as boring or unnatural as some decodable texts are.
In November 2010, a government white paper contained plans to train all primary school teachers in phonics.[38] In 2018, The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), as part of its curriculum research has produced a YouTube video on Early Reading. It states "It is absolutely essential that every child master the phonic code as quickly as possible ... So, successful schools firstly teach phonics first, fast and furious." [39]
To understand the big picture, children must understand the alphabetic principle—how our English system of writing works. The alphabetic principle is simply that visual symbols (letters) represent speech sounds (phonemes). To write the spoken word “dog,” you use alphabetic symbols to represent the speech sounds. We can combine and recombine letter symbols to form words. As odd as it may sound, children can learn letters and even letter sounds in very rote ways without understanding the alphabetic system. When children do not understand the alphabetic principle, they may do the following:
However, we suggest that the answer also varies by child and should be informed by simple diagnostic assessments. Some children are able to develop letter-sound knowledge more quickly and efficiently than others. This is one reason why differentiated phonics instruction is so well advised. Some instruction is provided to the whole class, but then it is reinforced and gaps are filled in as needed in a small-group context. Research has shown that reading achievement is supported when instruction is differentiated.3 A number of researchers have developed systems by which assessments determine which letter-sound relationships each child has learned and not yet learned, and a systematic series of lessons are provided accordingly.4 An important direction for our field is to work toward determining the most time-efficient approaches to ensuring each child in a class meets grade-level expectations in word reading each year.
We often observe phonics instruction that has some strengths but also some gaps. Effective phonics instruction is multifaceted. You’ve likely already heard about the need for explicit instruction. Explicit instruction is direct, precise, and unambiguous (e.g., telling children what sound the letters sh represent together, rather than making the connection indirectly or asking them to figure it out themselves). You probably also realize the need to apply general learning principles (e.g., specific feedback). Some other facets that must be present are:
This principle was first presented by John Hart in 1570[1]. Prior to that children learned to read through the ABC method, by which they recited the letters used in each word, from a familiar piece of text such as Genesis. It was John Hart who first suggested that the focus should be on the relationship between what are now referred to as graphemes and phonemes.
Phonics curriculum usually starts with teaching letters, slowly creating a working knowledge of the alphabet. Children learn the sounds of each letter by associating it with the word that starts with that sound. Phonics skills grow through reading activities, and students learn to distinguish between vowels and consonants and understand letter combinations such as blends and digraphs.
Time4Learning’s reading program includes phonetic-based lessons, helping children to acquire blending skills, to deconstruct sounds, and to approach the pronunciation of unfamiliar words. In addition as a literature-based feature, children are provided vocabulary, spelling, reading comprehension and writing components. The strategic combination is a successful tool in giving children the opportunity to explore and identify all facets of reading.
The correspondence between letters and sounds presents itself in several different ways. While letters remain the same, sound comes in different units: syllables, onsets and rimes and phonemes. Each syllable is made up of an onset, a rime or a combination of both. An onset is any consonants presented before a vowel in a syllable. For example, in the word “star”/st/ is the onset. Conversely a rime is any vowel and consonant(s) following an onset. In “star”/ar/ is the rime. Phonemes are the small units of sound that make up a word. While “star” consists of only one syllable, it contains four different phonemes: /s/ /t/ /a/ /r/.
Phonics for Reading is a research validated program that focuses on decoding, encoding (writing), fluency, and comprehension skills usually mastered in grades K to 3. The program uses explicit, teacher-directed instruction to introduce skills and strategies. Participants will learn the science behind the program as well as how to implement the program.
From the alphabet song to children’s toys, much of the messaging that young children receive about letters is focused on the names of letters. Although research does suggest the importance of teaching and learning letter names, also vitally important is teaching the sounds associated with the letters. A common faux pas is neglecting instruction in those sounds throughout prekindergarten and sometimes well into kindergarten.
In 1996 the California Department of Education took an increased interest in using phonics in schools.[26] And in 1997 the department called for grade one teaching in concepts about print, phonemic awareness, decoding and word recognition, and vocabulary and concept development. [27] Then, in 2014 the Department stated "Ensuring that children know how to decode regularly spelled one-syllable words by mid-first grade is crucial". It goes on to say that "Learners need to be phonemically aware (especially able to segment and blend phonemes)".[28] In grades two and three children receive explicit instruction in advanced phonic-analysis and reading multi-syllabic and more complex words.[29]
For key words to do their job, children must be able to separate the first sound in the word from the rest of the word (e.g., to separate the /b/ from the /all/ in ball). Ideally, children develop this skill, called initial phoneme segmentation, during or before the prekindergarten year. However, not all children meet this expectation. Fortunately, you can work on this skill while teaching the alphabet, including alphabet key words. Research strongly suggests that phonemic awareness (conscious awareness of the individual sounds in spoken words—for example, recognizing that sheep has three sounds: /sh/, /ee/, and /p/), although an entirely oral skill, is actually best developed with accompanying letters. This initial phoneme segmentation issue is also why you should be judicious about using alphabet key words that begin with blends (two consonant letters pronounced in succession in a syllable, such as dr in drum); it is especially difficult for young children to separate the initial phoneme in a blend.
Consonant digraphs are those spellings wherein two letters are used to represent a single consonant phoneme. The most common consonant digraphs are ch for /tʃ/, ng for /ŋ/, ph for /f/, sh for /ʃ/, th for /θ/ and /ð/. Letter combinations like wr for /r/ and kn for /n/ are technically also consonant digraphs, although they are so rare that they are sometimes considered patterns with "silent letters".
Phonics for Reading has three levels and contains placement tests that can be used for program entry or to measure growth at the end of the year.  Level I of Phonics for Reading contains 30 teacher directed lessons with a focus on short vowels, consonants, consonant blends, and digraphs.  Level II contains 32 teacher- directed lessons and progresses with vowel combinations, r-controlled vowel sounds, common endings, and CVCe words.  Level III contains 36 teacher directed lessons and expands concepts with vowel/letter combinations, common prefixes and suffixes, minor consonant sounds for c and g, and minor vowel sound combinations.  Levels II and III have fluency-building activities and directions for assessing fluency.  Each level of Phonics for Reading has ten activities that can be used to formally measure growth through the program.
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